French wine growers are falling behind in their distillation obligations, according to figures released by the EU.

Brussels has received applications for just 1.5m hectolitres of French wine to be sent for distillation during the 12 months from the 2005 vintage. The figure is a long way below the 2-3m hl recommended by professional bodies as necessary to bring the market into balance.

The industry is blaming the desultory uptake on low subsidy levels. Wineries receive EUR2.48 (US$3.00) per degree of alcohol, per hectolitre. As such, a grower sending 10hl of 11˚ wine for distillation would receive just EUR270.

So far, Spain and Italy have not revealed their levels of distillation for the coming year, but they are both expected to be significantly higher than the French figure, with officials predicting around 5m hl for Italy and 6-7m hl for Spain.